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Binghamton man, violently arrested earlier this year, declines plea deal

A coalition of activists continues to demand charges be dropped against Hamail Waddell.
Vaughn Golden
A coalition of activists continues to demand charges be dropped against Hamail Waddell.

The man involved in a violent arrest by Binghamton police earlier this year, is denying a plea deal from prosecutors as his attorneys allege the city is involving itself in the case.

Hamail Waddell was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, stemming from an incident in downtown Binghamton in the early hours of New Year’s Day. During the arrest, Binghamton police officer Brad Kaczynski was filmed kneeling on Waddell’s neck.

Last month, prosecutors on the case offered to drop the disorderly conduct charge if Waddell agreed to a conditional discharge for the resisting arrest charge. That would effectively constitute an admission of guilt for resisting arrest.

Dara Silberstein, one of the attorneys working for Waddell, told WSKG they denied the plea offer. Silberstein contends that both charges are unsubstantiated and should be dismissed. She additionally pointed out that defendants on similar charges with no prior convictions, like Waddell, are often presented with far more lenient plea deals.

Silbserstein also said that in asking both charges to be dismissed, prosecutors working on the case indicated that attorneys for the city of Binghamton asked District Attorney Michael Korchak not to drop the resisting arrest charge.

Binghamton Corporation Counsel Brian Seachrist didn’t respond to multiple inquiries from WSKG. Deputy Mayor Megan Heiman said the city is declining to comment on, what she describes as, hearsay from Waddell’s attorneys.

A spokesperson for the Broome County District Attorney confirmed that Waddell had been offered the plea deal, but declined to comment on the case further.

The parties are scheduled to conference before Judge William Pelella next week.

As Waddell’s legal proceedings continue, the New York State Attorney General’s Office is continuing an investigation into the arrest. A spokesperson confirmed the investigation is still ongoing.

At the same time, Binghamton Mayor Jared Kraham said an internal investigation into Waddell’s arrest remains ongoing and that Kaczynski remains on administrative duties.

Meanwhile, Kraham said the city is actively working to provide the attorney general with documents and related information related to her office’s investigation.

"We're not playing fast and loose with anything and that's why this time has lapsed essentially,” Kraham said.

Though, Kraham noted, the city is working with the district attorney’s office to determine what information is related to the attorney general.

"We want to assure that any release of information to the attorney general does not compromise a DA's office investigation or prosecution,” Kraham told WSKG. “So, that's kind of, that would be a standard thing. AG's asking for these certain documents, we want to ensure that the release of those documents, whether to the AG or any entity is authorized by the office of the district attorney. So, that would be a rudimentary kind of procedure in any type of investigation.”

Kraham said that the city is working with a private attorney, Shannon O’Connor, in relation to the investigation.

Meanwhile, Ithaca-based attorney Ed Kopko has signed on as Waddell’s lead attorney. Kopko represented Rose DeGroat and Cadji Ferguson as they faced charges stemming from an 2019 incident on the Ithaca Commons, where they were also violently arrested by police. Kopko is representing DeGroat and Ferguson in federal charges against four Ithaca police officers involved. Kopko’s involvement may suggest that Waddell may pursue civil charges in the future.

Vaughn Golden has been reporting across New York since 2016. Working as a freelancer while studying journalism and economics at Ithaca College, Vaughn has reported for a number of outlets including the Albany Times Union, New York Post, and NPR among others. Prior to coming to WSKG full-time, Vaughn was a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times. Vaughn now covers government and politics for WSKG.